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Problems of peace

Special Report | Bush, Putin broaden ties but is Russia really reformed? U.S. diplomats fight cultural battles at the UN. And in Latin and South America: Mexico's Fox is left to wonder what happened to the early courtship; Argentina and Brazil are left to wonder what happened to their economies; and a new leader in Colombia leaves left-wing terrorists to long for the bad old days

Issue: "Global shame," June 15, 2002

President George W. Bush signed a new Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, nicknamed SORT, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was what one commentator called the end of a "prolonged funeral" for the Cold War. The agreement commits both presidents to reducing their nuclear arsenals by two-thirds. It symbolizes that in the post-Cold War era, mutual deterrence is a policy that no longer applies.

The two leaders also pledged to increase economic ties. One result for the United States is that it will likely draw more oil from Russia and the Caspian Basin in coming years. Mr. Bush has even hinted that Russia could assume a cooperative role in development of a missile-defense plan-an unthinkable prospect when President Ronald Reagan gave a speech in 1983 calling for a missile-defense plan to counterbalance threats from Moscow.

Also unthinkable at that time was Russia's admittance last month as a limited member of NATO-an alliance formed to defend against the Soviet Union.

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Warming ties are in large part a result of the post-9/11 world, where Russian cooperation in fighting terrorism is considered vital to U.S. and European interests.

Has the former Soviet Union really come so far? Skeptics are drawing attention to a vast underground facility in the Ural Mountains where the Russians are spending more than they have spent on the Space Station to construct a mystery facility-along with continued reports of covert manufacture of chemical and biological weapons. Human-rights monitors are also concerned about continued restrictions for non-Orthodox Christians and abuses by Russian troops in the war in Chechnya.

Holding fast for children at UN Summit

One of hundreds of events postponed after Sept. 11 attacks was the UN Children's Summit scheduled for the following week in New York City. It reconvened in May with all sides reinvigorated in a debate that dogged the year-long preparatory process of the UN's special assembly on children: how to properly define a family and whether to endorse reproductive rights, including birth control and abortion, for children.

The United States, the Vatican, and Muslim countries including Sudan, Iran, and Pakistan opposed language that promotes abortion. The European Union, Canada, and many Latin American countries supported UN statements extending abortion access to adolescents. The Bush negotiating team insisted that the phrase reproductive health services could not be used in final documents from the summit because it could be interpreted as promoting the legalization or expansion of abortion, including in countries where it remains illegal. U.S. negotiators also insisted that the promotion of sexual abstinence was the most effective way of ensuring adolescent health and preventing the spread of AIDS-a stance that earned them the designation "irresponsible" from several European groups and The New York Times. In the end the European Union agreed to remove the phrase "reproductive health services" from the document in order to have a document at all. It will be the working paper health, education, and government officials were left with after the celebrities, guest dignitaries, and 370 children from all over the world left the splash in New York.

Cooling with Fox

In a significant departure from protocol, President Bush made his first meeting with a foreign head of state with President Vicente Fox and his first trip abroad to Mexico. Never before had a U.S. president singled out Mexico for that honor. In fact, Mr. Bush met with his counterpart south of the border five times in his first eight months in office. Mr. Bush, who speaks Spanish, said the meetings acknowledged "that the United States has no more important relationship in the world than the one we have with Mexico."

But that was before Sept. 11. A distracted U.S. president, and concerns about tightening border control and immigration during a time of more careful screening of who enters and exits the United States, have pushed key goals in the U.S.-Mexico relationship to the back burner.

Mr. Fox thinks old friends should not be forgotten. "Mexico, as much as the United States, ha[s] a responsibility to perform a constructive role in Latin America. Not assuming that role could contribute to a possible loss of control in our hemisphere," he said. The United States cannot "abandon Latin America to its fate," which he believes the Bush administration is doing in reneging on immigration reform and trade policy.

Argentina's peril

Imagine not being able to withdraw money from your own bank account. That has been the rule for Argentinians since last December when the government defaulted on $141 billion, the largest national default in history. Since then, the crisis has only worsened. Half of those once living in Latin America's third-best economy now officially live in poverty. The economic collapse sent unemployment to 25 percent and dumped many angry Argentinians onto the street.

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